Saturday, September 13, 2008

Spiked by Ike; or, The Great Gas Panic of 2008

Current music: Lifeline – Simon Slator

Y’all remember Katrina, right? Ike may, at least in terms of gas prices, turn out to be worse. Back then, we had a 20% jump… which turned out to be about 55 cents, ending up at $3.12. Depending on how things settle by Monday, it could be as much as 40% this time.

Lines at the gas pumpWhile Gustav hardly budged gas prices, the second large hurricane in a week to hit an oil-producing part of the coast triggered the Great Gas Panic here on Planet Georgia. By early evening, local gas stations were running out and the remaining ones were getting drained by long lines. Some of the smarter operators starting putting purchase limits on their fuel. The rumor mill was rife with talk about how gas would be over $5 on Saturday, perhaps even to $6. This seemed like crazy talk to me — a 20% jump from Friday’s $3.59 price would put us around $4.29, which was a little higher than the summer peak price. Local stations had jumped to $3.79 during the afternoon, perhaps a vain attempt to blunt the growing onslaught. By 9:30, only two stations had gas to sell — both BP, which ironically had the most trouble keeping gas on hand after Katrina. The one at the highway had jumped to $4.29 (and still had a long line), while the station in town continued selling at $3.79. “No limits,” the guy told Mrs. Fetched. “We have 1500 gallons left, and we’ll sell it until it’s gone.” The premium pumps were bagged (i.e. no gas left), but most people weren’t after the high-test anyway. Things were a little complicated by a friend who was nearly out of gas and bopped around to several stations before finding the BP in town.

Meanwhile, there were several people parked at the pumps at the Shell station, even though all the nozzles were bagged up. I was amused by the sight of a Dummer cruising through, looking for some more gas. We made our way to the BP in town, where I got in line to tank up Mrs. Fetched’s mom’s van (plus a 5-gallon can of ours) and managed to get it. A car tried to go around me and ended up in the ditch, which was entertaining since nobody got hurt. Local cops showed up to direct traffic and perhaps keep the peace… there was a near-incident where someone either didn’t figure out how people were coming in or didn’t care, but it was defused without drama. That wasn’t the case at Kroger, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The crazy stuff started in the morning. The BP in town continued to post $3.79, the local Citgo stations moved to $3.99, and the rest jumped clear to $4.49 or even $4.59. I heard (from P.O.D., not the most reliable source) that the gas stations along the freeway were charging $5.09… and people were making phone calls. Planetary Governor Bok-Bok got on the idiot box last night and said he would deal harshly with price gougers, and supposedly these folks got slapped with $40,000 fines. Mrs. Fetched had offered to take Jam to Mal-Wart, while we had another errand to run, so I suggested we combine the trip and I offered to sit in back with Brand X and Evil Lad NOT. That worked out fairly well, since Mrs. Fetched got to drive and bottom out the suspension on the bumps (and she couldn’t give me her patented Dirty Look about it for a change, heh heh).

Part of the errand-running included a trip to Kroger, since ice cream was on sale and Mrs. Fetched’s mom wanted some (which gave Mrs. Fetched a convenient excuse, which gave me a convenient excuse to replenish the Moose Tracks). While we were there, we ran into the store manager (who we kind of know since The Boy worked there back when he was like 15). I asked him about what Mrs. Fetched had heard from an EMT the night before: there had been a fist-fight at the Kroger and the cops shut the place down. “No,” he said, “I shut it down. There was a fight alright — some guy in a big truck tried to jump in line and I wouldn’t let him. Then he tried to hit me with his door. I’m not having that… he went to jail.” I’m not sure I believe the rest of this though: “We had to pay $5.02 for premium — wholesale — and I’m selling it at a loss ($4.49), and people are telling me they’re calling the state to report us for gouging.” Hey… if he has the receipts, let ’em call. I did wonder, though, what the deal was… if Citgo was selling gas for 50 cents less, and Kroger was still selling at a loss, the distributors might be gouging. Or perhaps they’re taking care of their own brand(s) and letting the indies fight over the scraps.

The last thing he said was “We’ll be at 60% capacity, best case, for the next two weeks.” That was about how long it took to get things more or less put back together after Katrina, so that makes sense. I guess there will once again be spot shortages for a little while. At least this time I have a little motorcycle that’s immune to purchase limits. Mrs. Fetched admitted to being annoyed when I bought it, but now she’s thanking God I had the opportunity and took it.

But if $4.49 is the price where everything settles, that’s a nearly 27% jump in prices. Worse than Katrina, in both absolute and relative terms… at least as far as gas prices go. I’ll post an update early next week after the next FAR Future episode.

8 comments:

  1. Hey Far, I was thinking how you guy's were making out down there. While you're folding those Sunday bullitins, say a little prayer for those in east Texas, eh? I spent 3 1/2 years of my young adult life there during the early 80's. Nice people..

    Our gas prices jumped 30 cents yesterday,(even though our gas is derived from Alberta's tar sands). Yup, we filled a couple cans during that last storm. However, up here I can't remember a time when I ever sat in line to get fuel or see a station run out of gas... I suppose if hurricane season corresponded with tourist season, that might be different.

    Yup, Little Zuke is bound to see lots of action! I'll bet it's just beaming with pride! Especially around Mrs. Far! heh! Kim's coming along real fine, new back brake cable and even a new tail light lense! She just purred, when I slapped that on. I'll take back the standard stop light I purchased over at Napa..ha!ha!

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  2. Heh!heh! I do get a big kick out of our people complaining when the Canadians come over to fill up, several cans in tow! ha! "They shouldn't be coming over here to get our gas!" Little do they know, it's actually "their" gas! ha!

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  3. Yooper, the first time I saw "no gas" signs out was in 2005 — I guess they were probably out on occasion in 1973, but I wasn't old enough to drive at the time so I probably wasn't paying *that* close attention.

    Little Zook has been seeing plenty of action so far this year — I've racked up about 5000 miles just commuting this summer — and might get some action through what they think of as "winter" here if I can get a windshield on it. As-is, I'm good down to about 30F.

    I'll bet if you attempted to enlighten the people complaining about Canadians crossing over to buy gas, they would just get this blank look and completely fail to process the info. That, more than anything else, makes me think we might be in deeper trouble.

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  4. Hey Far, blank looks? heheh! I wouldn't even think of enlightening the local people, no matter, who they are... Most are incapable of processing what is really going on, anyway. People only listen when their ears are being tickled. Learned that long ago...

    Plus, if TSHTF, as far as they're concerned, I'm as dumb as the rest of 'em....

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  5. I haven't looked at gas prices in a couple of days. I guess the news won't be good when I fill up tomorrow. Ugh.

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  6. Maybe not, Boran. I don't think you get all your fuel from LA/TX anyway.

    Still seeing a 50-cent spread here: $3.99 to $4.49.

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  7. FAR,
    Wow, that's sounds like a serious situation down there! No shortages here (yet), but we were figuring the prices would spike over the weekend, but curiously, they didn't.

    We had some tail end high winds from Ike on Sunday here (SE Iowa got rain bands but we missed them, and had rain all day/night Thurs and Fri) ... it was blustery and cold! The Chicago area really got hit though... about 9 inches!

    Ike sure took the whirlwind (literally) tour of the upper Midwest this weekend....

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  8. Hey IVG. I was looking at the forecast tracks for Ike and it looked like it was going to be in a big rush. Did you see Andi's comment at Nancy's place yesterday? She was out of power for quite a while & got a text from Jen saying she's still out & probably will be for the next few days.

    We could have used an inch or two of Chicago's rain. We got a little wind, a spit or three of rain, and that was it.

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